Action ace Clarence Fok (Naked Killer) directed
this Hong Kong retelling of the Crying Freeman Japanese
manga. As you'd expect, the overdone erotica is gone from
this version, but the violence is all intact. However, there's
an even bigger problem: Sam Hui plays Freeman. What the-?
Yao (Hui) and May (Maggie
Cheung) are childhood friends who hang around Russia. However,
all is not well as the 108 Dragons Cult kidnaps Yao and
turns him into Freeman, an amnesiac assassin who sheds tears
whenever he offs somebody. He's trained in his art by a
wacky old guy and the lovable Pearl (Loletta Lee). Eventually,
Yao is unleashed upon the world, but he soon comes into
contact with May again.
The action in this film is
over-the-top and entertaining. This isn't surprising, as
Naked Killer benefited from Fok's handling of action,
too. Lots of wirework and extensive choreography lift the
film, and they manage to save the movie from a complete
loss. However, after that not much is left.
One big problem is the casting.
Whoever decided Sam Hui should be Freeman needs to be given
a serious beat-down. He's a likable enough guy, but the
character of Freeman is not supposed to be an "aw shucks"
grinner. Add to that Hui's usual comic tendencies and he's
a total non-fit. They should have gotten any number of other
actors, like Simon Yam or Tony Leung Ka-Fai. Maggie Cheung
is beautiful as always, but there's one moment in the film
where she searches for the missing Yao by running all over
Russia with a picture of him attached to her sweatshirt.
That inanity is matched by Yao's unbelievably snarky attitude,
which leads to all sorts of unfunny and boring comedy between
he and Pearl.
On the positive end, Carrie
Ng, Nina Li and Yuen Tak all fit their roles extremely well.
Ultimately, Dragon from Russia's problem lies with
its uneven mix of shtick and action. It never really settles
into either tone well, and as a result never becomes more
than mildly interesting. And Sam Hui as Freeman? What were
they thinking? (Kozo 1995/1997)